COVID-19: Five Questions Houston's First Baptist Church is Addressing

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Senior Pastor, Gregg Matte from Houston's First Baptist Church shares the five questions his staff is working through during the COVID-19 crisis and how they plan on caring for their congregation during the Stay-at- Home Order.

As a congregation, we need to be committed to not letting the coronavirus look like leprosy. Those suffering from the virus should not be shunned. They should be loved and cared for.


Tommy Rosson:

Today, we're joined by a Houston's First Baptist Church. Pastor Gregg Matte. He's been in Houston since 2004 and been a part of the community and seen, disasters from the standpoint of Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Katrina, explosions, and all the things that have happened here in the last 15 years. And so now as we deal with, Covid-19, another unique challenge in greater Houston. And so I'm thankful for joining us today. And I know we were talking earlier, you mentioned five questions that your church, that your staff is trying to cover. Do you a cover this with them?

Gregg Matte:

Yeah, for sure. Here are the five questions basically, and not necessarily in any order. How do we handle cases of Corona in our church? And how do we help other churches and ministries? How do we prepare our budget? And how do we do weddings and funerals? That's kind of an interesting one. And then lastly, how do we get our message out? And again, in no specific order. But those are the five questions I posed to our staff yesterday and assigned a different, different person on everyone. So yeah, those are the questions.

Tommy Rosson:

When you think about those questions, what do you feel good about? What do you, uh, what are you struggling the most with and what do you think you have creative solutions, possibly on some of those?

Gregg Matte:

Yeah, they all have a little bit of everything. You know, the first thing I would say is, is your ministry staffing? Are you a generalized staff? Are you a real specific staff? Like our staff is a large staff, so we're very specialized. We're very specific, so that makes it easier for us. If it's a generalized staff, then you've got to be really clear of being able to say, okay, this one person handles three things. Well, here's how these three things divide up. So just getting these questions one by one. You know, how are we going to handle cases in our church? Well, you know, the first thing that we're going to do is pastoral care. And those folks that handle that, that benevolence or not benevolence, but the hospital type ministry, they're going to be the point of the spear.

They're going to be the spear with that. We're going to connect with the person. Um, and we're going to ask them, you know, I think legally we have to ask them permission. Can we publicly share their name? Not so we can send it to the news. That's not what we're trying to do. But we've got to then go through where have you been, what have you done and what sort of things at the church, so that's, that's one aspect. The other aspect is care. And so we're going to be able to drop our off groceries at the door. We are committed and I told our staff, I said, we are not going to let the Coronavirus become a leprosy, that people feel shunned. Because there's a, whoa, we're going to embrace it now. We're not gonna physically embrace it, of course. But we're going to be able to do that.

So question one, how are we going to handle cases? We're going to handle what ministry or handle it with clarity and we're going to handle it with leadership in the church to make sure that people feel comfortable at our church and we can really track it down and have a good responsibility of that we haven't met in a while. So the chances of someone having a connection with our facility is very rare. You know, it was becoming more rare as the time goes by. But we do want them to feel the ministry and the love of the church. So that's question one, question two. How do we help other churches and ministries? We're working right now with our international mission board. There's missionaries there trying to get back home and we're trying to help them to do that, to hopefully find a place that they can land, we can care for them.

Trying to connect with smaller churches to help them in whatever way we can. Um, so that's, that's a couple of things that we've done to help them in coaching, to help them. And if we need to film something for them, then we can do that. So, so those are sort of things I think every church though needs to just get involved on social media and just go for it. Don't worry about the quality and excellence right now. Worry about the connection and communication. All of us want to have that ministry as stepping out to help somebody. Um, and so what's, the strength that your church has and what's a friend of yours that you can connect with? And if you can make that connection. I've sent some text messages to friends, said, Hey, how are you doing? What's up? Anything we can do for you.

Some of it might be using some gear that you have. Some of it might be using, you know, there's knowledge that you have some, some interactions, like that. So, so you want to be helpful to other churches and ministries. Missionaries are struggling as they're coming home. People are going to be like, Whoa, you came from a foreign land. Well, how can we help them? Is there a place that they could stay? Is there some food that you can give them? Um, so I think that's, that's a good thing. Question three. How do you prepare your budget? You know, if you're in Houston, we've got two problems going on. We've got Corona and we have oil. Okay. And if Corona wasn't happening, the biggest story would be oil prices. That would be the number one thing. Corona's going to probably peak and go down.

Oil, I don't know. I'm not a forecast. We might be looking at a, an upswing in the sense of problems with that. So you need to be thinking about that. And so how do you handle your budget? You need to pull back on spending and that should take care of itself in a little bit because of the programming lack. But at the same time you've got personnel and you can do those things together, that's a key deal to do that. So pulling back on the outflow and then the inflow., help your people to know how to give. You've got faithful people in your ministry, in your church. They can mail it in if you're not meeting for church. It can be an online component. And so being able to connect in those ways is a big deal.

Watch your inflow or try to help your inflow, watch your outflow and understand where we are in our society right now in our budgeting and I think you're going to be okay on that. Number three. That was number three. Number four, how do you do weddings and funerals? Something I did not think about until we started talking about it. You know what we have moved to is doing a small, the actual part of the wedding or funeral, the vows, the burial, you know, the grave site. Just do that cause everything, we've put two things into one in ministry. The main thing is the main thing. It's the vows and it's the burial. And you can do that with less than 10 people. Nobody wants to do that., but you can do that and then postpone the party, whether it's a celebration of marriage or celebration of someone's life, you've just got to postpone that.

It is so difficult. There's no doubt you want to grieve with everybody there. I had a friend, unfortunately he was killed yesterday and I'm just like, Oh, I can't believe his wife and kids this time right now. And it was an accident. It was a surprise. He was my age. I mean, just a sad, sad thing, a pastor even. How does his church get together? How does this family get together? Ah, it's just terrible. And he was a good buddy. So, that's you just, you’ve got to look at what the actual thing is and then do the celebration of life or the celebration of marriage later. And then last and then Tommy, you can ask me a bunch of questions. I don't want to run the floor, but just to get through these, how do we get the message out?

You've got basically the internet, social media, and it doesn't matter. You know, if you can, do you just, I think we're going to send our church a letter next week if we can make it all happen. And just in the mail piece of paper, so many texts are going. So many emails are going on. It's just white noise almost. But instead that letter to say, Hey, we love you. Here's three ways you can give. I want to give you a how to, you can give online, you can give through the mail. Here's three ways and you know, you can drop it by the ministry, leave it in the mailbox or at the door. Whatever it is. Here's three ways you can connect with us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I mean we keep going, you know, Sunday mornings, whatever it is. Here's three ways to give, boom, boom, boom.

So it's not a giving appeal. That's not what I'm trying to say. It's a connection with your people. For them to have that set it next to their computer and go, okay, Facebook didn't work, go to YouTube. The church website didn't work, go here. And it, and it just helps us. We're thinking about just doing a good old written letter. And then we're trying to connect with little videos and such. Our student ministry did an online game and we had 50 or 60 kids connect with them on Instagram, just playing an online game. So everything doesn't need to be, Oh gosh, this is, let's think about the things of God. I mean people just need, all our fun has been removed, you know, and so, and I'm not trying to say this is fun, but, we've also still, we have a need for interaction as human beings in this time. So those are the five questions we're asking. Those are some of the answers we have. Glean it all you want. If you come up with better answers, please email me with them cause we're trying to figure it out.

Tommy Rosson:

No, that's great. I mean, as a leader of, you know, hundreds on your staff, you've got to think, you know, you've got to think about how you're spiritually leading your congregation, but also how you're guiding your staff from a leadership perspective. And those are some great questions. As you think about, you know, kind of, putting on the pastoral hat, and especially, it's fascinating how though we are disconnected physically, everybody is talking about the need to connect emotionally and relationally because we will, to some degree, be much more isolated. So you think about that from a pastoral perspective. Just give me a little bit of your thoughts on that as you put on the pastoral hat.

Gregg Matte: